[beta] TRN Weekly Review: Week of April 18-24, 2021

RCTC Capitalized On New Express Lanes By Launching A Connector Project

The Press-Enterprise reported, the Riverside County (CA) Transportation Commission (RCTC) launched construction of a ramp in Corona that will create a direct link between the toll lanes on the 91 and 15 Freeways. The two year, $270 million project aims to reduce congestion by connecting the SR 91 express lanes that opened in 2017 with the ones RCTC opened on I-15 recently.

THEA Opened The Selmon West Extension

Tampa Bay Times reported, “the newest route linking Tampa and Brandon with Pinellas County to the west is being hailed as a historic moment. The extension will connect businesses, freight, and people in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, Vincent Cassidy, chairman of the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority board, said in an email to the Times. ‘It will help stimulate social and economic prosperity for local businesses and the entire region,’” Cassidy added.

New Metro Houston Tollway Continued To Beat Traffic Projections

Houston Chronicle (scroll down to “Tollway update”) reported, the Brazoria County Expressway is averaging almost 600,000 toll transactions per month, more than double the number projected before its November 2020 opening, according to a county official, who noted that overall highway traffic is still generally lower than it was before COVID-19. levels. The new facility, consisting of four tolled express lanes (two in each direction) located in the center of SH 288, connects with the 288 toll lanes operated by TxDOT and the Harris County Toll Road Authority.

These are a few of the toll industry developments TRN covered last week. If you’re not a subscriber to Daily News Briefs, click here for a free, 14-day trial. Read the news as it happens every weekday morning.

STAR Systems Introduced A New Transponder

STAR Systems International announced the introduction of Zenith, its new transponder optimized for windshield or headlamp mounting. According to the company’s news release, the product “protects stored memory with a robust error-correcting architecture that is immune to single-bit errors;” includes enhanced security and cloning prevention features; and “features an industry-leading read sensitivity of -22.5 dBm.” Zenith is currently undergoing OmniAir RFID product certification.

Lawmaker Proposed Increasing TxDOT Cyber Insurance Coverage

“Government Technology” looked at cyber insurance through the lens of TxDOT’s recent experience with the consequences of IT system hacks. The department first obtained coverage in 2019 “as protection for toll revenue bondholders,” and realized its benefits following a 2020 ransomware attack. A bill to fund the department’s acquisition of an additional policy is now in committee.

Louisiana Bridge Project Received Federal Funding

KPLC  reported, “More funding has been approved for a new I-10 bridge over the Calcasieu River” in Louisiana. “The money is part of the 2020 Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act. Louisiana received approximately $216 million allocated for roads and infrastructure, $30 million of which will specifically go towards [the bridge project]. ‘For the first time, we really have hope and belief that this is going to take place,’ said president and CEO of the Southwest Louisiana Development Alliance, George Swift.” Swift added that additional federal funding would reduce or eliminate the need for tolling.

Transurban Reported DC Express Lanes Traffic And Pricing Is Lagging In Recovery

The Free Lance-Star (scroll down to “Express lanes traffic”) reported, although traffic on many Transurban toll roads is slowly returning to pre-COVID-19 normality, the firm’s metro DC facilities are exceptions. “In 2020’s first quarter, an average of 55,000 vehicles used the I–95 express lanes every day. This quarter, the figure stands at 35,000 average trips, a 37.2 percent drop. Interstate 495 express lanes traffic dropped 37.5 percent, from 39,000 daily trips to 24,000. In total, traffic on Transurban’s North American express lanes (including lanes in Montreal) was down 26.9 percent compared with the first quarter of 2020. . . .” (The data was derived from Transurban’s recent March Quarter 2021 update.)

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TxDOT Announced An Opening For Toll Operations Division Director

Texas DOT said it is is seeking applications for the position of Toll Operations Division (TOD) Director. The job entails management of division activities and personnel, including business and customer service operations, marketing, operation and maintenance of toll facilities and finance. The TOD director also work in partnership with the Chief Information Officer to ensure optimal support of back office, in-lane, and customer service center operations and systems. View job details and apply at https://www.txdot.gov/content/txdot/en/careers/job-list.html?jobId=120242.

Separating Toll Services Into Two Contracts Was a Win For MDTA, Says CEO

Maryland Matters, reporting on the Maryland Transportation Authority’s final transition to a new toll collection regime, noted that the authority previously used Conduent as its sole toll system services vendor. Now, Kapsch TrafficCom is responsible for AET collection system operations and TransCore is providing customer service center services, including a new, improved website. MDTA chief James Ports, Jr., said separating the functions into two contracts increased competition among potential bidders and got the authority “a better deal” at lower cost.

NY State Comptroller Sounded A Warning About MTA Debt

Newsday reported, “The MTA’s soaring debt burden — which has more than tripled over the last 20 years, and could reach nearly $47 billion in two years — could force service cuts, scaled-back infrastructure investments, and higher-than-anticipated fare and toll increases, according to a new state report” from the office of State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. (Link inserted by TRN)

Revenue Shortfalls Put Washington State On Course To Raise Toll Rates

KING5 reported, “Due to revenue projections and absent subsidies, a toll rate increase will be required for the state to meet its financial and legal obligations, according to information presented to the [Washington State] Transportation Commission on April 20. . . . The state is looking at being $105 million short in net revenue that will be needed to meet financial obligations under the current toll rates between the fiscal year 2022 and 2033. . . .” (Link inserted by TRN)

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Congress Moved Away From Approving A Gas Tax Hike Or New RUC Fees

The Hill reported, “Longtime proponents of raising the gas tax and recent converts to a vehicle miles traveled tax are sensing it’s increasingly unlikely that either revenue-raiser will be a part of President Biden’s massive infrastructure proposal.” The article noted that many legislators have no appetite for raising taxes of any kind, and some lawmakers who view road use charging as a viable substitute for fuel levies believe more analysis of the terms and mechanisms of collection is needed.

12 US Governors Supported Banning Sales Of New Gas-Powered Vehicles By 2035

Reuters obtained a copy of an April 21 letter in which state governors called on President Biden “to back ending sales of new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035, a dramatic shift away from fossil fuels.” The chief executives of 12 states, including California, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon and Washington, urged Biden “to ensure that all new passenger cars and light-duty trucks sold are zero-emission no later than 2035 with significant milestones along the way to monitor progress.”

GOP Senators Pitched A Revised Infrastructure Spending Plan To President Biden

AASHTO Journal reported, “A group of five key Republican senators unveiled a five-year, $568 billion infrastructure investment framework on April 22 to serve as an alternative to the $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan proposed by President Biden on March 31.” The proposal, which substantially narrows the scope of the administration plan, includes $299 billion for highways and bridges, and $61 billion for public transit.

Industry People Made News

Kapsch TrafficCom announced the appointment of J.B. Kendrick as president of the firm’s North America business unit, with effect from April 19. According to the firm’s news release, “Ms. Kendrick joined Kapsch in 2017 as Senior Vice President of Sales and Business Development, a role in which she was instrumental in growing the tolling, traffic management, and connected vehicle business for Kapsch TrafficCom North America.” Kendrick succeeds Chris Murray, who is leaving Kapsch TrafficCom after a successful 10-year run as head of the North America unit.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, the Georgia State Transportation Board is considering raising GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurry’s salary to $450,000 when it meets next month. The raise would increase McMurray’s current salary of $350,000 by 29 percent.

407 International, Inc., confirmed two recent board appointments. Javier Tamargo, the firm’s president and CEO, joined the board on March 31. Andrea Jeffery of Canada Pension Plan Investment Board was also appointed a director, effective April 5, 2021.

Bestpass, the provider of toll management solutions for truckers and fleet operators, has an employee-led committee that identifies “opportunities to contribute to the community in a meaningful way while also building relationships across functional teams.” A news releases notes that the committee’s recent focus on food assistance led employees to spend an afternoon preparing more than 500 meals for a local charity that serves at-risk and in-need individuals.

Spain’s Government Proposed To Levy Tolls On Major Highways

Euro Weekly News reported, Spain’s government, in an amendment to the draft of a financial recovery plan, said it will introduce tolls on “high-capacity” roads in order to generate “the necessary funds for the conservation of the state road network.” According to the article, previous highway tolling proposals have been abandoned, but this time the government is promising action to support its request for urgently needed European Union financial assistance. Spain currently has one of the lowest road system investment rates in Europe, according to media reports.

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